Perrance Ward of West Point is making up for lost time this season as a sophomore with the East Mississippi Community College football team. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
September 29, 2010 10:08:00 AM
Perrance Ward isn''t sure where his next step will take him.
Like many former high school standouts who are honing their skills in junior college, Ward has dreams of playing Division I football. He knows, though, that the road from there will get tougher.
But Ward has been through much more than the typical junior college sophomore since he graduated from West Point High School in 2008. Injuries and academics conspired the past two seasons to delay his return to the football field.
Ward is making up for lost time this season as a sophomore with the East Mississippi Community College football team.
Last week in a 37-10 victory against Itawamba C.C., Ward made his first interception in college to help the defending MACJC state champion Lions improve to 1-3.
Ward hopes the performance is just the latest example of the progress he has made on and off the field as he works toward taking the next step in his life.
"I had to mature as a player and as a young man," Ward said. "My experience at EMCC has taught me responsibility. That is a key word in the whole time I have been here."
Ward signed a letter of intent to play football at EMCC after his senior season at West Point. But an injury Ward suffered to his right wrist in a game against Oxford in his senior season helped put his football career on hold. Three surgeries and nearly two years later, Ward said his wrist is feeling fine, even if it isn''t back to 100 percent. He said the last surgery he had helped give him back mobility he had lost after the second surgery in which a plate was inserted above his wrist.
"It was shocking because after playing football since the second grade I always loved the contact and I always thought that as long as you played hard and weren''t lazy and played to the best of your ability you would be injury free," Ward said. "It was definitely a wake-up call."
That call came when Ward said half of the Oxford High football team fell on his wrist as he was trying to recover a fumble. The injury caused him to bypass his initial opportunity to go to EMCC. Ward admitted he was uncertain how his wrist would hold up, so he opted to go to school at Atlanta Metropolitan College. But after about a month there he realized he needed to do something different.
Ward was fortunate he decided to stay in touch with coaches at EMCC, especially defensive coordinator William Jones, who handles the recruitment of players in this area of the state. By March 2009, Ward was at EMCC and making progress toward earning his eligibility.
To accomplish that goal, Ward said he was taking classes at EMCC''s Mayhew and Scooba campuses. But academic problems ensued shortly before the start of the 2009 season and left Ward ineligible to play with the Lions.
"It hurt," Ward said of not being able to play. "I was really looking forward to playing, but I always supported the team."
Ward re-dedicated himself in the classroom to make sure he would be eligible for the 2010 season. He also focused on his work in the weight room and on his conditioning so he would be ready when he hit the field again.
Ward said talks he has had with his cousin, Michael Carr, a former West Point High standout who is now a freshman at Mississippi State, have helped him put things into perspective. He also said the journey has opened his eyes to what he needs to do to make sure he is prepared for the rest of his life.
Ward said he needs to complete one match class to help him satisfy his graduation requirements. He said he isn''t sure if he will graduate in December or next spring, but he knows he wants to keep playing football.
Ward''s exploits on the field have helped him attract plenty of attention from college coaches. With nine solo tackles and nine assisted tackles this season and 4.3 to 4-4 speed in the 40-yard dash, EMCC assistant coach Clifton Collins said Ward, who is 6-foot, 210 pounds, has all of the tools needed to be a Division I football player.
"He is a strong, physical guy," Collins said. "He is what you would call the prototype safety or defensive back."
Collins said. Ward has worked hard to get re-adjusted to playing football at a high level. He said a great spring, summer, and fall put him in position to be an immediate contributor, and Ward hasn''t let the coaches or his teammates down.
Collins said Ward is like a lot of junior college players in that his focus has improved as he has realized the importance of the opportunity in front of him.
As much as Ward might be like his teammates and other JUCO players across the country, he feels his journey has taught him lessons that will give him an advantage over everyone else and will help him get to where he wants to go.
"I have been through a lot. It hasn''t all been bad, but I couldn''t be on the field like I wanted to," Ward said. "I look back on the past and I am motivated because I want to be somewhere greater than I am now. It is going really well, and I am going to continue to get an education and two work hard on the field."
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.